This was probably one of the last things people were predicting to come out of the South California Avenue Headquarters of the worlds most dominant social network. But it is the move that makes the most sense from a development point of view. Lets break down the main announcement and take a look at what this could mean in the future.
Firstly these arent your normal Facebook groups. It has become increasingly apparent that self editing is now happening more and more and that is down purely to the fact that Facebook (and social networks in general) are now a mass medium. To put this in perspective Facebook is now at a scale that would make it the third largest country in the world Mashable. More and more of our family, friends and colleagues are joining up to Facebook which poses a problem. As human beings we naturally behave differently depending on which part of our social make up is surrounding us. It is not a case of one size fits all so we may well decide not to share that video or make that statement simply because we dont want certain friends, family members or colleagues to see it. Google have spoken about this and are clearly taking a lot of time in researching ways in which they can also help online behaviours replicate our offline world.
What are they?
Facebooks new Groups are their initial response to this conundrum. It allows us to easily split up our social groups and begin to interact with them in the same way we would if we were in their actual company, but of course this will all be contained within Facebooks walls. These groups will also allow for conversations to happen behind closed walls and be 100% private to that group of people. I am sure certain people will be asking how and if Facebook will be monitoring these closed conversations for security reasons and many companies and brands may be a little uneasy at the fact they will not be able to monitor these either.
What will change?
Groups (if widely adopted) will also completely change the flow of information in our news feeds. Now we will all become edited out of some conversations whilst being part of others. We no longer will get to see those random insights into peoples lives that previously we wouldnt have seen, unless of course they arent privacy minded in which case the free-for-all will continue.
How this will play out with the mobile application is yet to be seen (unless I have missed something so feel free to correct me) although I would imagine a drop down from the status bar to give you an option of which social group to post to would make the most sense.
At this moment in time the integration of the new groups doesnt appear to be as smooth as Facebook is suggesting; it currently requires considerable effort for you to get to your group and share information. I would imagine this will change over time and become a much easier process allowing for more on-the-fly posting.
Groups is merely the first step in a replication of our offline lives and will not be the last development in this area by any means. It could potentially be the one though that makes or breaks a social network in the future. Would you choose the social network that isnt flexible over the one that is?
Check out Mark Zuckerbergs blog post outlining all the announcements from yesterday including details on the application dashboard and the new ability to download all your information from Facebooks servers.